AMMONIA TOXICITY: Part 1
Posted on August 28, 2013 - 81 Comments
AMMONIA: A NEW TOXIN TO WORRY ABOUT
In the last blog I discussed how some cities treat their water with a mixture of chlorine and ammonia, known as Chloramine. It was revealed that it is very difficult to remove the ammonia from water treated this way, with current carbon filter technology. Therefore, many of us may be ingesting high amounts of ammonia, a health hazard that is only now being recognized as yet another danger of modern living. In this blog we will look at causes of high ammonia, other than our water supply, and symptoms of ammonia toxicity. In Part 2, I will discuss what we can do to remove ammonia from our bodies.
CAUSES OF HIGH AMMONIA
Ammonia is a normal by-product of processing nitrogen in the body, and is excreted as waste in the urine, in healthy people. However, elevated blood ammonia levels can occur when the kidneys or liver are not working properly, allowing this waste to remain in the bloodstream, which can be poisonous to your cells.
The medical system has linked elevated blood ammonia levels to: the use of diuretics and narcotics; excessive physical exertion; gastrointestinal bleeding; heart failure: kidney disease (including kidney stones); liver disease (such as cirrhosis or hepatitis).
Smoking cigarettes can increase ammonia in the blood since it is added to tobacco to speed delivery of nicotine to the brain, making the product more habit forming. Elevated blood ammonia level may also be related to drug or alcohol abuse, which may resolve itself if the abuse is discontinued.
FAST FOOD MEATS
Those who eat fast-food burgers and cheap hamburger can unwittingly be consuming ammonia along with their “food”, due to the filler known as “pink slime.” “Pink slime” (called “lean finely textured beef” by the meat industry) is a processed beef product that was originally used in pet food and later approved for human consumption. In March 2012, ABC News claimed that 70 % of ground beef sold in U.S. supermarkets contained this additive.
Pink Slime is used as a filler, or to reduce the overall fat content of ground beef, and is produced by processing meat by-products such as cartilage, connective tissue and sinew. The recovered beef material is then processed, heated, and treated with gaseous ammonia to kill E. coli, salmonella, and other harmful bacteria. After coming in contact with water in the meat, the gaseous ammonia forms into ammonium hydroxide. When this “meat” is consumed the ammonia can enter the bloodstream elevating levels.
NORMAL AMMONIA METABOLISM
Ammonia is naturally produced in the body during “gluconeogenesis”, which is part of the breakdown of fats and proteins to be used for energy (a separate function from the use of sugar or carbohydrates in the body). When athletes do a hard workout they can detect gluconeogenesis by their ammonia-smelling sweat, due to the catabolic breakdown of the fats and protein from their own muscles.
In the same way that the athlete creates gluconeogenesis through vigorous physical exertion that draws on the body’s resources, so excessive stress can also cause a similar effect with the fight or flight response. Thus continuous over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system, and ensuing high cortisol levels, can also lead to the production of excessive ammonia.
So, the bacteria in the digestive tract break down proteins into nitrogen compounds, including ammonia, for absorption into the body. These protein compounds are then used to repair cells. This is all very normal and the body is equipped to handle the small amounts of ammonia produced this way.
We produce almost 4grams of ammonia per day just from our intestines. The bloodstream then absorbs this ammonia and takes it to the liver for processing. There the ammonia is turned into urea and re-enters the bloodstream, whereupon it is carried to the kidneys, and excreted from the body by way of the urine. However, if the liver is damaged, and the cells can not remove the ammonia from the blood, it enters general circulation resulting in toxic levels.
PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS OF AMMONIA TOXICITY
Since there is no current medical belief in slight ammonia toxicity, we can get a handle on what the symptoms might look like by seeing extreme examples of the ingestion of massive doses of ammonium chloride by humans and experimental animals.
Early physical symptoms of elevated blood ammonia include fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pain in the back, sides or abdomen, or other symptoms of liver and kidney damage. Excessive levels of ammonia hinder the production of the energy molecule ATP, which leads to fatigue and eventually, flaccid muscle tone. As well, ammonia raises levels of nitrogen-based, damaging free radicals in the body.
Toxicity symptoms can also include breathing difficulties (especially with a burning sensation in the lungs), glucose intolerance, and increased urinary output of magnesium, calcium and phosphate. Generally a large intravenous dose of ammonia will cause immediate hyperventilation, loss of equilibrium, brain damage, convulsions, coma, and death.
MENTAL SYMPTOMS OF AMMONIA TOXICITY
If blood ammonia levels remain elevated for too long, it soon affects the brain tissue, leading to symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, confusion, irritability, inability to concentrate, and delirium.
From the medical perspective, disorders allowing hyper amounts of ammonia into the blood, such as acute liver or kidney failure, are associated with hyper-excitability, seizures, brain edema, increased extracellular brain glutamate, and a reduction in serotonin levels. High levels of glutamate (an excitory neurotransmitter) in the brain, especially when combined with low serotonin (an inhibitory neurotransmitter) levels, are linked to ADD and ADHD, and could also be linked to a wide range of anxiety issues and unbalanced mental states.
Glutamate is known as an “excitotoxin” and excessive amounts of excitotoxins can cause brain cells to swell up and die. The other main excitotoxins are found in Aspartame (Nutrasweet) and MSG, as well as many other taste-enhancers used in commercial foods.
Reactions to excitotoxins include: headaches, eye inflammation, brain edema, central nervous and vascular system problems. When excitotoxins are fed to babies and young children they can cause disabilities including dyslexia, un-controllable anger, autism, schizophrenia, and seizures.
Mouse studies have shown that Acetyl-L-carnitine can prevent neurotoxic damage to the brain caused by ammonia. ALC also is used to treat depression and is a strong antioxidant. Protecting the brain from damage caused by excitotoxins requires adequate amounts of the nutrients vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium and zinc. Also, keeping balanced blood sugar levels is critical to brain function and protection from excitotoxin damage.
On a more subtle level, the effect of ammonia on the brain include reduced cognition, lack of focus, diminished motivation, loss of sense of self, heightened emotionality and extreme mental fog. All commonly found symptoms these days.
In part 2, I will look at what we can do to remove ammonia from our body, both by supporting the organs involved in processing and disposing of it, and by taking supplements with an affinity for removing ammonia.
Did your brother have a full recovery from the schizophrenia symptoms? How was the high ammonia treated? Any info you’re willing to share would be much appreciated.
One major cause of high ammonia not mentioned here is untreated H Pylori infection. A large percentage of the population is positive for this pathogenic bacteria, but many have no alarming digestive symptoms. Treating the infection will drastically reduce ammonia production. What many fail to recognize is that it’s not endogenously produced. Treating longstanding H Pylori has dramatically changed my life. It’s an awful infection that goes undiagnosed in so many people. It’s responsible for far more disorders than you would believe.
H.pylori is a nickel dependent enzyme and cobalt chloride should balance this out. As far as high ammonia please look into molybdenum for metabolizing ammonia. Hope this helps
My husband has had high ammonia levels for at least six years now and has used Lactulose off and on. He also has high levels of B-12 which he has reduced by taking a much smaller dose per day; he had been taking 5,000 per day. Recently he has been experiencing memory loss, irritability, severe exhaustion, severe headaches, muscle weakness, back pain and aggression. We don’t eat much hamburger but, he is a steak eater for certain. He has seen a Gastroenterologist who put him on Lactulose due to high ammonia levels and sent him to the neurologist, who had baseline cognitive testing and follow-up after 1 year (no change), sent him back to the Gastro guy who put his hands up in the air and said, ” I just don’t know”, Now that he is exhibiting these symptoms we are desperate to find the “Right” type of doctor to see; it is affecting his ability to work and he is getting so depressed. He is 68 years old by the way and does have non-alcohol liver disease, high blood pressure being controlled with medication and type 2 diabetes. His ammonia levels has stayed at about 100-110.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver can be caused by vitamin D deficiency as can diabetes and a host of other ailments. I would suggest that your husband to a DNA test through 23andme.com and send the results to geneticgenie.org. Many ailments that are hard to figure out are due to methylation malfunctions, which in turn usually involves malfunctioning vitamin D receptors. People with such malfunctions (aside from taking specific nutrients that help the body to methylate) find success when taking high levels of vitamin D (30,000 IU daily). Perhaps you should seek out a Naturopath to help you with an alternative approach.
That’s an astronomical amount of vitamin D…not good unless one has decent levels of calcium in their diet. Unless one wants bone spurs, jawbone loss and/or hip fractures.
I agree that saying 30,000 IU without mentioning co-factors is an oversight. One who chooses to take 30,000 IU of vitamin D should look for symptoms of magnesium deficiency (leg cramps, irregular heart beat, headaches, etc), as high amounts of D use up extra magnesium. High amounts of D also require that one take adequate amounts of vitamin A and vitamin K2.
That sounds good, except why no mention of calcium? Calcium deficiency can cause cramps, twitching, etc, just like magnesium can. Tetany is a perfect example. (Marcus)
It is rare for calcium deficiency to cause cramps; generally an excess of calcium is the cause (since calcium is the contractor and magnesium the relaxer). And, most people (in a culture that consumes lots of dairy products) have an excess of calcium, and a deficiency in magnesium.
I am mostly against calcium supplements, except in small doses, since they are linked to both heart disease and cancer. Vitamin D may mobilize calcium but does not require it as a co-factor in the way that magnesium is required.
“Our patient developed tetany even though his total serum calcium was 9.6 mg/dl, which is within the normal range.”
Tetany is a disorder of increased neuronal excitability usually associated with hypocalcemia.
True, though I would suggest it is rare.
Perhaps, but it does happen, and happened to me on three occasions. So that’s why I make and effort to point it out. Magnesium is in my opinion, one of the most over-hyped supplements out there and has always made my twitching and cramping worse. (Marcus)
Even though it is not common, you are right in that it could be important information for those people in that boat.
I have done a crazy amount of research on this subject and what you are stating your husband is going through sounds like he needs to decrease the amount of red meat in his diet. There are certain foods that after entering the digestive tract create more waste (or ammonia) than other foods. Some low ammonia producing foods are eggs, chicken, and white fish (tuna is not white fish). Red meat and organ meats create higher amounts of ammonia in the system. A change in diet might help with this problem which is caused by the liver being unable to filter the ammonia out of the system and convert it to urea which is then excreted. Adding oatmeal to the diet might also help because it helps absorb ammonia in the system and removes it more quickly.
I was an extreme diabetic taking up to 200 ml of insulin a day. Humalin R-U 500. My nephrologist was talking about starting dialysis but never explained why other than “The Numbers” were off. I was extremely Tired and (my wife tells me) extremely cranky. One day my knees unexpectedly buckled – so I made a Dr appt. When I could not tell my name – President – etc.. he sent me to the ER immediately. Sine I was taking half of a 5 mg eliquis pill twice a day they immediately zeroed in on a stroke diagnosis, however after an MRI they found nothing and after a few days sent me home with a Pre-Stroke diagnosis. After a couple of more days I got much worse and my wife called the Ambulance to send me to a Level 1 Trauma center. After another MRI and EEG (where they found nothing) – they sent me to an extensive stroke rehab center. After 10 days being in an Altered State and going into a Coma, they transferred me back to the first hospital. After a few more days a doctor Finally did an ammonia test and it was in the 160 range. With a couple of new medications I rapidly improved , however I’m still working with physical therapists to regain balance, strength, etc. I also had a liver biopsy in the hospital and was told I had severe damage. My question is: Could the Ammonia Poisoning create the Liver Damage? Why is the Ammonia Test not part of a Routine annual physical?
And as a side note my diabetes went away with my new A1C being 6.6 without any medications. I switched the majority of my doctors as I lost confidence in my old doctors.
Ammonia poisoning can definitely cause liver damage so it would be a good idea to be taking some liver-supportive agents (milk thistle, turmeric extract, etc). I imagine the ammonia test is not part of an annual physical because it is rare to find people with ammonia toxicity. However, as this blog is the one I get by far and away the most comments on, it does appear that the problem is growing. As usual, I recommend that you find out if you are a poor methylator (DNA test from 23andme, results sent to geneticgenie.org), and start taking good amounts of methylcobalamin (B12) and vitamin D. Perhaps under the guidance of a Naturopath.
I am learning a lot immensely, thank you all for these comments.
I am a 24 yrs old and for the last month or so I noticed I am beginning to have symptoms of psychosis. It all started with the most terrifying panic attack one night out of the blue and it kept getting worse from there on. These are my symptoms for the last week or so:
– loss of coherency in my thoughts
– almost impaired speech
– panic attacks
– inability to control & inhibit negative thoughts like I used to
– drastic decrease in my memory
– very tired all the time (even after 9 hours of sleep)
Also in all honesty I started drinking on weekends for the past few months so I’m wondering if this is a factor. If anyone can answer these questions below I’d appreciate it:
– can a lifestyle of drinking only weekends for 5 or so months cause ammonia toxicity?
– can ammonia toxicity cause panic attack & anxiety specifically?
– some people say taking l- glutamate might make the ammonia toxicity worse, is this true ?
– iv been feeling strange tingly and vibrating sensations on my head for the past 2 weeks, does this have anything todo with toxic ammonia entering my brain ?
Please any insight is appreciated. I need to fix my self before it’s too late thank you.
Drinking won’t cause ammonia toxicity, however if you are a poor methylator you will not produce glutathione, and therefore will lack the ability to process all toxins, including ammonia. Ammonia toxicity can cause panic attacks and anxiety as well as the sensations in your head. (All of which, by the way, can also be caused by electromagnetic sensitivity, another thing poor methylators are prone to. You may consider getting a cap that blocks emfs from lessemf.com) For removing ammonia I suggest taking liposomal glutathione, along with any of the other ammonia removal substances mention in my blog. If you are able to I would suggest getting a genetic test from 23 and Me, and sending the material to genetic genie to find out your methylation status. Also have a look at the work of Dr. Abram Hoffer, and the use of vitamin B3 for healing the brain. L-glutamate would make the toxicity worse, since that is a form of glutamic acid, akin to MSG, but L-glutamine will usually help remove ammonia from the brain.
Those symptoms can be caused by a variety of things, including lyme disease and exposure to toxic mold. What else has changed for you in the last several months? Are you living in a new place? Water damaged building? I am genetically susceptible to elevated ammonia levels, and our family was very sick with toxic mold exposure. Panic attacks are horrible.
Mr. Ken Peters thank you for this blog and the information. I am also grateful to everyone who shared their information. It is immensely helpful and I feel relief that I am not alone in this struggle. It is very difficult to be the caregiver of someone with these conditions.
My 34 year old son has been hospitalized for anger and aggression issues. This is unusual for him. He is bipolar and is taking lots of prescribed drugs, including a monthly shot of Haldo. His level was 155 and he was going into kidney failure. It was like he had all the symptoms of demenia including memory loss and and falling down many times. He does not take illegal drugs or drink alcohol. The doctors think it might be the Haldo and have taken him off of this drug. He is improving every day. I can’t get an opinion on whether the brain will be permanently damaged. He is getting better each day but it is a slow process. I would like to know if the ammonia level builds up gradually or can this happen suddenly. Any information you can provide is appreciated.
High doses of Haldo can cause kidney failure and kidney failure can cause a rapid increase in ammonia levels. It is important to follow some of the protocols in my ammonia blog in order to reduce his levels (most important is liposomal glutathione). The brain can be repaired using supplements that cross the blood brain barrier, especially Phosphatidylserine, Acetyl L-carnitine, and Lion’s Mane. I would also suggest looking into the work of the late Dr. Abram Hoffer (http://www.orthomolecularvitamincentre.com/disorders.php) who successfully treated bipolar and schizophrenic condition with high doses of vitamin B3.
My brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bi polar years ago in Oklahoma, and was given Haldol, which he was on for years. When I would ask the psychiatrists if they thought he could ever be cured and someday live a normal life again, they all said no, and that his disease was not curable, only treatable. This made no sense to me, because my brother lived a normal life until age 21. The doctors said he was born with a schizophrenic gene, but I always wondered how he lived until age 21 with no problems if he was born with a genetic disease. They would always talk about this schizophrenic gene causing this and causing that, but they never even found the gene to prove the disease even exists. Then they would say that when the genome is mapped someday, that they would find the schizophrenic gene, which they never did. So basically it’s a disease that has never been proven to exist. anyway, one day I got a call from the state mental hospital and they said my brother had collapsed into unconsciousness, and was taken to a medical hospital. Once they ran blood work they discovered an extremely high ammonia level, but they could not determine the cause. They gave him a medication to lower the ammonia and my brother came back to consciousness, and my brother returned to his normal state of delirium, hallucinations, etc. One night I prayed to God that he would show me what’s causing my brother’s problems and asked it in the name of Jesus, because the Bible says anything we ask in his name shall be done. Shortly thereafter God showed me what was causing my brothers problems and it was a low B12,and an elevated free copper level. Since his psychiatrist refused to run these simple tests on my brother, I took my brother to a walk in lab and had his B12, methylmalonic acid, free copper and zinc tested. His methylmalonic acid level along with his free copper was high, and his zinc was low. His B12 was also low and the methylmalonic acid is elevated when the B12 at the tissue level becomes low. I then started doing extensive research into methylmalonic acid and discovered that when it gets high, it blocks the enzymes in the urea cycle from converting ammonia into urea for evacuation out the urine, which causes ammonia to back up and elevate in the body. I finally discovered, thanks to God almighty, that this was causing my brother’s problems. As you may already know, an elevated ammonia level can cause anger and aggression, along with psychosis and other psychiatric problems. High methylmalonic acid can also cause these problems. You should also have a lab test done called “direct measurement of free copper” done to measure his free copper, which also causes psychiatric problems. If it’s elevated, you can give him zinc, 50 mg 3 times a day, one hour before meals on an empty stomach, which will bring his free copper level down. Dr Carl Pfeiffer cured 20,000 people diagnosed with this so called disease called schizophrenia, decades ago. He would put them on zinc and sometimes it took 2 or 3 years to lower their free copper levels, but they would eventually be cured and symptom free. As long as they remained on zinc, they remained cured, but if they ever stopped taking it, their copper would eventually get high again and they would relapse. It’s possible that just a low B12 alone could be causing your son’s problems or a combination of both as in my brother’s case. I’m concerned for my brother having brain damage too, like you are about your son, because my brother had symptoms of a low B12 for decades, and if he had a low B12 it means his ammonia was elevated too. When he collapsed it just finally got so high that it almost killed him. For decades he had extreme thirst, constipation, insomnia, psychosis, etc, which are all signs of a low B12 that these stupid psychiatrists never found the cause of. His thirst was so great that the hospital put him on water restriction from the water fountain. When I asked why my brother had this extreme thirst that caused him to drink so much water, the psychiatrist said it was psychological, and that he was trying to drink so much water that he could get intoxicated, which was a far out explanation. I now know it was caused by a B12 deficiency. I’m so disgusted with this medical system, that I’m obtaining a lawyer and suing several psychiatrists for their misdiagnosis. If we start suing these hospitals maybe it’ll prevent some other young kid from having to endure what my brother or your son had to go through. Once they have to pay out a judgment, they will definitely change their policies and start testing psychotic patients for a low B12, before throwing this diagnosis of schizophrenia or bi polar on them. Anyway, I hope your son recovers and I hope this information helps out.
Lot of good material in your comment, and I appreciate the effort you put into sharing your story and trying to help others. I would just point out that for the vast majority of people zinc taken on an empty stomach (especially 50 mg) will cause nausea. If this occurs one should definitely take the zinc with food.
Can phneumonia cause a increase in ammonia levels. Can this lead to a sudden memory loss?
I have seen no information indicating that pneumonia can cause increased ammonia levels (usually that is due to liver and or kidney malfunction), though it appears that untreated severe infection in the body can contribute to increased ammonia levels. However, that being said, a spike in ammonia levels can definitely lead to memory loss.
Go watch and listen to Dr. Enqi!!!! (Youtube)
Look at candida overgrowth!! Candida produces ammonia in our bodies. Holistic studies show as much as 70-80% of the American population could be infected due to our poor diets and antibiotics in our food supplies. It took going to a functional medicine doctor for me to get diagnosed. I believe my children suffer from the same thing.
Candida overgrowth can produce a large number of symptoms. Among them are headaches, migraines, bad breath and rectal itching. Mood swings, canker sores and persistent heartburn. Muscle and joint pain, numbness and tingling sensations in the face or extremities.
Also acne, night sweats, sore throat, nagging cough and clogged sinuses. PMS and thrush; a yeast infection of the mouth causing a burning tongue and white spots on the tongue and in the mouth, also cystitis and fungal infections of the skin and nails. Kidney and bladder infections, arthritis, flatulence (gas) gastritis, diarrhea, and chronic constipation. Colitis and ulcers in the digestive tract, leaky gut syndrome, female disorders; including sterility, fibrosis or pregnancy problems and vaginitis. Plus the Male disorders; prostatitis and impotence.
Further symptoms are allergies, hormonal imbalance, heart problems and poor memory / balance. Earaches and ear infections, asthma, sinusitis, fluctuation in blood sugar levels and meningitis.
These toxins represent a great strain on the liver. Which can no longer adequately detoxify the body, causing extreme fatigue and a general feeling of discomfort. Depression, hyperactivity and indigestion join the previously mentioned symptoms. These various symptoms can be caused by the fungus candida albicans. Which produces almost 100 different toxins.
Candida yeast ferments dietary sugars into liver-toxic acetaldehyde in the process of turning sugar into energy. Candida also appears to increase gut and urinary levels of ammonia, another liver toxin.
I have a liver disorder known as Ornithenetranscarbamalase deficiency that is due to elevated ammonias. It is a very rare disease and was treated at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis Still on medications and will be for the rest of my life. Pretty scary disorder
april – Have you ever had your B12 and methylmalonic acid level tested? When B12 gets low, it causes methylmalonic acid to get high and block enzymes in the urea cycle that convert ammonia into urea, which causes elevated ammonia levels. Most doctors don’t know a low B12 causes high ammonia, and they often misdiagnose people with other conditions. Have your methylmalonic acid level tested in your blood, because it’s the most accurate indicator of a low B12.
Sorry if this is a dumb question, but why can’t ammonia be excreted out through the kidneys?
According to Wikipedia: “The kidney’s primary function is the elimination of waste from the bloodstream by production of urine.” This includes excreting “toxic metabolic by-products such as urea, ammonia, and uric acid.”
I have a dear friend, age 41, that has had a severe brain injury. He has severe seizures, and often the meds. he’s given cause high ammonia levels, even the seizures can cause elevated levels. He’s now currently in the co. jail due to an episode that occurred in a local hospital that has been proven to have the result of extremely high ammonia levels caused from meds. given for seizures at the same hospital that filed ‘terroristic threats against him when he had to be tied down because he could not stand on his own, but continued to get out of bed because he did not know where he was. Do not be afraid to ask your doctor for an ammonia level test, because many doctors do not do it, especially if your on medicaid.
I’ve had psychotic episodes where I heard voices, become severely delusional and started to behave very strangely. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia but the funny thing is lack of sleep was what had happened just prior to each episode. Thanks for pointing to ammonia as the cause of lack of sleep. I now know parasites are releasing ammonia and the trick is to kill the parasites with herbs and by liver flushing.
What is causing your delusions and psychosis is a low B12, which causes a high methylmalonic acid level, which causes a high ammonia. Go get your B12 and methylmalonic acid level tested. The doctor can give you B12 injections and cure your problem.
Sorry to burst your bubble Jimmy, but methylmalonic acid doesn’t ’cause ammonia to rise’. It does potentiate already existing elevated ammonia levels, but many patients have high b12, low MMA, and still have horrible issues with ammonia.
my brother is 54 years old. His doctor told him he had high levels of ammonia when he had his blood work done about June 2017 . She put him on lactulose ,he ran out after 2 months ,had blood work done in August 2017 but they did it wrong so had to get it redone about August 28,2017, levels of ammonia are high again so he is on lactulose . He has a heart defibalotor, he is bi-polor. congrstive heart failure,his sugar runs low even takinf the lactulose.ostoprosis, breating drops real low when is a sleep so he is on oxygen when he sleeps I am his sister and his care giver this site was very helpful.Thank you for informing the public with this information.I get scared about what all he deals with,the doctors are surprised he has lived with everything but the ammonia levels which is really new the other conditions happened about 3 years ago.
As I pointed out in my blog on ammonia: “Magnesium is required by the body in adequate amounts to help maintain blood sugar levels, which we have seen is important to helping the kidneys to perform their detoxification function. Magnesium also serves a function in glutamine metabolism, by activating glutamine synthetase, an enzyme that also helps to remove ammonia from the cells.”
Since the heart also depends upon magnesium you should ensure that your brother is getting as much magnesium as he can take, before reaching bowel tolerance (at least 600 mg elemental). If he cannot ingest high amounts of magnesium orally, it can be applied topically (magnesium oil).
marie – I have little confidence in the majority of doctors, due to my experiences dealing with them over the years. To make a long story short, my brother was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, when all he had was a low B12, which caused elevated ammonia to cause his psychosis. When he collapsed into unconsciousness in the mental hospital and they ran blood tests, they noticed he had an elevated ammonia, but they were unable to find the cause,and they didn’t care to look to try and find the cause. I did months of research and also did my own blood tests on my brother by taking him to walk in labs in Oklahoma. I discovered he had a low B12, and a high methylmalonic acid, which is caused by a low B12 at the tissue level. I then did extensive research into this methylmalonic acid and discovered that when it gets elevated, it blocks enzymes in the urea cycle, which converts ammonia into urea. When this conversion is blocked, high ammonia levels build up in the blood. Have your brother’s methylmalonic acid level tested, because it’s the most accurate test for a low B12.
I have Alpha 1Antitrypsin deficiency. This is a genetic disorder that affects the liver & lungs. Also have stage four liver cirrhosis and have to monitor my ammonia levels. I was hospitalized for hepatic encephalopathy he when my ammonia levels reached 336. I was disoriented and confused at times but felt OK at other times. My doctor put me on lactulose and Zifaxin but my ammonia levels are continuing to rise day by day. If you’re uncertain what is causing your loved ones to be confused and disoriented and or have high ammonia levels. Ask your doctor to test them for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. A lot of doctors do not even know of this.
Thank you so much for recognizing ammonia toxicity as a legitamite problem. I recently discovered unusually high amount of ammonia in the air and drain water. Although there is no ammonia coming into the home throgh our municipal water source, I discovered our the breakdown ptoducts of our eco-friendly cleaning products may be the source. Our water contains various amounts of chlorine used as a disinfectent making the problem even more deadly. I also appreciate the mention of ammonium chloride, which is overused to a large extent. It is a constant challenge trying to keep a clean home without the use of heavy chemicals. I have been unable to find a single product on the market that does not eventually cause severe issues when used on a regular basis. Although, I smoke cigarettes, I do not use them in the home and find small amounts of ammonia pleasant. (I am a dairy eating freak, although I am still confused as to why all my clothing smells like urine after over a year of VOC filtration and washing with products that have no labeling concerning the words ‘bleach’ or ‘ammonia’. I have quit Lysol a long time ago, despite the need for strong anti-bacterials due to various issues.)
Is it possible that by intake of homeopathic medicine increase in ammonia possible in blood
Certainly no homeopathic medicine would cause ammonia in the blood, unless it were designed to aid in detoxification. Homeopathic minerals, such as arsenic and mercury, can aid the body in removing the heavy metal versions of these minerals, so homeopathic ammonia should work to help the body remove toxic amounts of ammonia. You may wish to speak to a certified homeopath to follow up on the subject.
My step father is currently dealing with this condition and has nearly every symptom listed. He is scheduled to follow up with both a gastroenterologist and an urologist. What will they be looking for? What might the course of treatment be? The medication they gave him initially has been making him throw up. They also prescribed an anti nausea medication to counteract this side effect. Is there anything we can do to help him feel better in the mean time?
Hi Linda: I am afraid I cannot really help you since I am not a medical professional. All I really have to offer is the material to be found in the second ammonia blog, and to suggest that you read the comments, since some of them are from people suggesting new drugs and modalities.
In the case of your stepfather perhaps a strong probiotic product would be helpful (VSL #3 being the most therapeutic, if you can afford it) since many studies have shown probiotics to lower excessive ammonia levels in the body. As well they are gentle, don’t interact with medications and will also help with the nausea.
thanks for the info
what kind of diet recommendation for liver diseases.
my mom ammonia level is 137
Aside from a basic healthy diet, low in refined carbs, avoiding bad fats and sugars, one should eat minimal amounts of animal protein, since they produce ammonia as a byproduct of digestion, and include lots of cruciferous vegetables, since they help detoxify ammonia.
Please be cautious recommending this low protein diet….one who is severely undermethylated needs a high protein diet that is not of plant or dairy protein, but animal. Plant protein is recommended to be avoided because commonly methylation problems can also be accompanied with copper toxicity , usually brought on by vegan type and ” greens” diets.
Please refer to William Walsh Research Institute regarding supporting research for methylation issues, Pyroluria, nutrient deficiencies, etc. Mensah Medical nutrient protocol saved my life.
“Ammonia is a normal by-product of processing nitrogen in the body, and is excreted as waste in the urine, in healthy people”.
With all due respect I would like to mention that the second part of the sentence is misleading.
Ammonia is mainly produced during the catabolism of proteins(though there are other sources of ammonia)and since ammonia is toxic to the body it is detoxified in the hepatocytes as urea which can be excreted through the urine.So humans basically excrete urea as the end product of nitrogen metabolism and not ammonia.This is the reason why humans are known as ureotelic animals(due to excretion of urea) and aquatic creatures are ammonotelic animals(excrete ammonia as such) and birds are known as uricotelic animals(excrete uric acid).
Very informative. Thanks for your contribution.
OMY heavens, I’m so sorry karen for you and your mom. I just happened to be reading this blog, and just wanted to drop u a line. I’m from Canada and thought I’d let u know I’m thinking about u and your mom. Try googling those Meds and see if they r compatible with what she is going through. You may want to consider a malpractice suit against hospital s and doctors. Get a copy of all the paperwork.
Also the hospital where she was having tests before she came home and went into coma, they were giving her norco for pain, Do hospitals screw up all the time like this. My mother is suffering greatly because of there mistakes. Her body and mind have never been the same since fall. Now she can’t talk. How does this happen?
My 77 yr old mother was diagnosed with Cirrhosis of the liver in July of 2016. She has never been a drinker. She has had rheumatoid arthritis since she was 31 years old. Her medication to treat it was methotrexate. I am told this is what contributed to her liver problems. The arthritis has had a terrible effect on her body. Unsteady when she could walk she has taken severals falls. One of which she hit her head pretty hard and had a subdural hematoma Burr holes to drain it became infected on one side of her head and she developed a Empyema. Which was removed, this happened in 2008. She fully recovered. Still falling now and then without any complications until last Oct. While in the hospital she had been given a restoril for sleep, and was left unattended in the bathroom and fell the next morning. She hit her head and suffered a subdural hematoma, a broken rib, and three dislocated fingers. She was black and blue all over. She is a fall risk and has been for years. The hospital took excellent care of her in ICU for four days following this. She had not been taking any meds like that for a long time. They stayed in her system to long, because of her liver I guess. This is just giving you her background. She recently suffered what was her first noticeable spike in her ammonia levels. She had told me she had found her finger in the bed and had put it back on. I figured this was ammonia and called her Dr. she said to take her in so we did. They were concerned with her loosing blood and transferred her to another hospital for testing. She was there for 4 days. We are sill waiting for those results. She was released on last Sunday a week ago. My sister told the nurses she did not look well. They said she was groggy she had just woke up. She took her home and barely got her in the door and she was so tired just wanted to go to bed. When I got home and checked her she was not well, unresponsive and we called 911. She is in the hospital now. Last Sunday she was put on a ventilator, and put into a coma, so they could figure it out. She had been giving propofol to sedate her all those days. They thought it was the subdural hematoma, or a stroke her symptoms were pointing that direction. A ct scan showed nothing. The next afternoon her labs reveled her ammonia level was 123. the started immediately trying to bring it down. The next day it was 91 the next day 76 the next day 56 the next day 36. She developed a pneumonia. So the tied to wean her off ventilator she did well breathing but did not want to wake up. So they left her on another day, and continued the propofol The next morning they weaned her off again and shut off the propofol. Breathing was good but she did not wake up. The did a bronchoscopy to clear her lungs. She did not wake up. Finally after several hours she tried to open her eyes Maybe for a second. That was it. The next day they removed the ventilator. She did well vital signs are good but she can only open her eyes for a second or two and can not speak right gurgling and moaning. She seems to understand some things she knows her name but wont squeeze your finger. This has gone on for 3 days what could it be? She does not seem to be improving. Her ammonia level is 26 now , but she seems damaged what would cause this?
My husband has been going through high ammonia levels since he was given a blood tranfusion with massive doses of iron for low hemo drops. He is in hospital now for high ammonia levels. Unknown he went unresponsive. This deep deep sleep as if under anthesia. He was given 3 bags of iv fluids before he started to come out of it. He wouldn’t open eyes couldn’t move body. After second bag of fluid moved right hand to scratch nose but still couldn’t respond.as quickly as he slipped into this state his ammonia level went down to40. Ct scans showing no seizures ref was good his Liver panel comes up normal gentic testing has shown no abnormally. This all started after a stent placement loss of blood transfusions of blood with iron, procuit shots and still no answers as to what’s causing this 3 yrs we have been waiting on answers as to cause of ammonia levels. We go through this every month. Being treated with lactulose zinc sulfate, and rifacimin and still went into this high ammonia level then unresponsive state this week was in that state from Thursday to Sunday. No one knows why or cause of it
I’m in kidney and liver failure (non-drinker always have been) and have high amninia levels. I have a great dr right now and finally. One thing my new dr caught was that I am allergic to the material stints are made of and I had 2 strints inside me. They were able them both out thankflly.
I’m not sure if anyone else may have this allergy issue to stints but having mine removed lessened the amnonia some. Not all the way because I am 1 point away from stage 5 kidney failure and my liver is just scare tissue and no viable organ matter. But the amnonia levels decreased enough that I am not experiencing the brain swelling and symtoms of this as much so my symptoms did improve onece the stints were removed.
Wanted to share in case it could aid someone else .
I am so sorry to hear about your mother. That is such a horrible way for her to have to live. I will keep her in my thoughts.
I was hoping you or someone else in the chain may be able to guide me a bit. My brother started behaving strangely in April. He lost his temper with is boss and lost his job, he has since lost his wife and his house and is living with my mother.
We had no idea what was happening to him because he lost his ability to walk properly, to drive a car, and had tremors, he was always confused and quite out of touch with things. After many tests (at a free clinic since he lost his health insurance when he lost his job) they said he has Ammonia toxicity. I had never heard to it but when I started to research, the symptoms are almost identical. I am afraid because I live overseas and I think my mom is really confused and isn’t helping matters. Granted she’s doing her best but she’s old. She does not want to believe it’s his liver but clearly it is and we need to help him.
I did buy him groceries and paid their rent and I told my mom only to buy fresh fruit veg and oily fish and to give him still water and herbal tea without caffeine. I told her to cut out all diet sodas (he’s a massive fan of diet coke) and she has to help him quit smoking. I was also going to order glutamine powder for him. He is really bad and I fear he is close to death if he doesn’t get serious help.
I think I should head over to the US but as luck would have it I am under the care of a neurologist and it’s just not feasible. Should I take a risk and go? I do not want to lose him.
Please anyone help.
It sounds like the diet cola may be a big part of the problem: not only is aspartame a neurotoxin, but is is made in part with aspartic acid, something the body uses to detoxify ammonia. It is believed that high amounts of aspartame can cause the body to increase its dumping of ammonia. http://www.laleva.org/eng/2006/09/aspartames_cancer_producing_mechanism.html
As well, the caramel color in colas is made with ammonia:”Caramel Color IV (synonyms: ammonia sulfite process caramel, sulfite ammonia caramel, sulfite ammonia process caramel, acid-proof caramel, beverage caramel, and soft-drink caramel) is prepared by the controlled heat treatment of carbohydrates with ammonium-containing and sulfite-containing compounds.”
Have your mother tested for Wilson’s disease. Anyone with liver problems should be tested for Wilson’s which is a copper storage problem. Most doctors have never heard of the disease. It is not a childhood liver disease like the medical books still say. New discoveries show that Wilson’s disease can affect adults too.
This info was very helpful. My mom is in hospital now cause of high ammonia. She has cirosis of the liver.( non-alcoholic). And her kidneys are failing. She is totally in a fog and she has dementia and slurred speech. She stares off into space. I was wondering how deadly this was since nobody would tell me nothing at hospital. Now i know that its very serious. Thank you.
How is she doing? My father is in the hospital now with the same symptoms.
My husband had high ammonia levels and had a ct scan that revealed a shunt in his liver allowing unfiltered blood to circulate thru his entire body. Symptoms of extreme fatigue, falling asleep in his food and dementia symptoms. The radiologist inserted a screen and corterized the hole. Within 6 weeks all his symptoms disappeared. Even renowned neurologist missed this one. Check with your Gi doctor.
ann rogers- Your mother might have Wilson’s disease, which is a copper storage disease that affects the liver. She needs to be tested for Wilson’s disease and if she has the disease, they have copper chelating drugs that can save her liver and save her life.
I was just wondering if anyone had ever tried a coffee enema for detoxing to help with the high levels of ammonia?
I have been dealing with non alcoholic stage 4 liver disease for over ten years now. I was given lactulose for the ammonia in the brain, but it never felt right to me. I was initially told to take it to help my bowel movements, but since I never had trouble, I never took it. They THEN tell me it’s for the brain! Glad I had already been drinking my organic green juices as it will do the same….
Donna Harris, Get tested for Wilson’s disease. Sounds like this is what’s causing your liver problems.
I eat ground beef , never again
I’ve had high levels for a year now. I took lactalose for awhile. It was very hard on my body. Last July my bowel tore. Ten months and three surgeries later my levels are still too high. My dr says take lactalose if you can handle it. Well I tried and I can’t. The side affects worried me after that ilostomy. Is there another medicine that might help me out? And I do have liver disease unfortunately.
I’m afraid that I am not up on pharmaceutical options, though I do believe if you use the substances mentioned in Part 2 of this blog, along with taking some clues from the comments, you will be able to remove the majority of ammonia from your body. However, if you have methylation issues it will require some testing, and a slightly different approach (injectable methyl-B12, methylfolate, and liposomal glutathione.
Another medicine may not be the way to go. Read part two of this article and use the 5 amino acids and bentonite clay, along with supporting vitamins.
Xifaxan works for hepatic and nonhepatic encephalopathy. It has kept my ammonia levels down ever since it first came out and I was prescibed it to replace lactulose.
I have almost the same problem. I have severe cerrosis of the liver, barely working, from about 15-20 years of hevy drinking, a fifth of vodka EVERY night. My liver cannot break down my amonia almost at all so I have been on heave doses of lactulose for about 2 years. No issues that have been like yours but sometimes I get very gassy, gut & and stomach cramps and diarrhea almost always. Problem is if I miss just say 2 or 3 doses in a row I lose allmost all brain function. Apparently I forget my name, my parents name, date, year, birthday, I fall down cause no balance, basically cant walk, dont have any enegy so all I do is sleep, and I end up back in hospital for about a week. It REALLY SUCKS!! But the lactolose regularly keeps it all away. I have been back in hospital at least 5-6 times since last August. Just wanted to share my story so u know how it is for me. Any questions I can help with just ask. Thanks!
Check your methylmalonic acid levels in your blood. This is caused by a low B12 at the tissue level, and when the methylmalonic acid becomes elevated, it blocks enzymes that convert ammonia into urea for evacuation out the urine. When the ammonia is not converted into urea, it builds up in the body. A serum B12 test is only accurate 50% of the time, because our tissue level of B12 can be low, while the blood is normal. Take the methylmalonic acid test, because it is the most accurate, and if you have a low B12, it will always be elevated. The stupid doctors in Oklahoma don’t know this, and my brother suffered from a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia for years, when it was a low B12 and the elevated ammonia that accompanied it that was causing his problems. I discovered this through months upon months of research into trying to find the cause of my brothers problems.
I was admitted to the hospital as a result of ammonia toxicity on 3/13/16. I awoke with the need to vomit and kept on. I couldn’t even swallow my own saliva and keep it down. The last thing I remember was telling my husband that I needed to go to the hospital. 4-6 hours later, I was cognizant. Scared the hell out of me. I’d been symptomatic for 3 years and then the 2 weeks prior to last Sunday got increasingly worse. I’m not sure what to say…. It was an awful experience. Especially being told you can lose your mind and then die.
“Ammonia is naturally produced in the body during “gluconeogenesis”
Do you have references for this statement?
Are there refs.about ammonia production during gluconeogenesis in the Liver since most gluconeogenesis takes place in the liver? I know that the liver will detox ammonia but it wont if one has Liver failure,liver enzyme deficiency,etc.
“The majority of amino acids are catabolized in the liver. The reason is that the only the liver (and
kidneys) can converted the ammonia produced by the catabolism of amino acids into urea.”
A much more detailed scientific description of the process can be found at:
This great information. There are a few mutants genes along the methylation pathway that cause high ammonia levels. I have three of them- CBS, NOS, and BHMT.
I have some of those. Those pesky genomes! The wholistic doc told me I could bend or shape mine according the the food, environment, etc that I created. In other words, those genes could be effected by how you address them.
Also, there is an enzyme that eats up extra ammonia. Tree Of Life in PA.
Wow…ammonia has been destroying my family for at least 5+ years & although I’ve literally begged the medical system for answers, part 1/2 of this article had given me more information than 3 hospitals & multiple specialists! Please notify me as new facts are discovered.
Mine is just beginning and I am a person who has worked in a radiology department for 21 years. I think that some aspects of HIPAA are the worst if your family member is not informing you, and if your family member is one of those people that just does whatever the doctor tells them and they don’t know why or what is happening to them it is a family nightmare. In fact, I think in some cases it could potentially endanger people’s lives, including the patient’s. Why should a patient have those kinds of privacy rights that exclude the patient’s caretakers–which are not exclusively medical people. I often wonder being a person who is inflicted with autoimmune issues myself and having to work so very hard to figure out what the hell to say to the doctor to get treatment because the medical terminology wasn’t working. I mean seriously. I do really love my doctors I have right now because I can actually have a conversation with them and they don’t act like they know everything there is to know about my issues even though now I know excruciatingly too much. because I had to spend 7 years trying to get treatment and then 4 years getting the right doctors. Some doctors are real A holes when it comes to listening to patients. On the other hand, our insurance system has contributed to that issue because of limited time allowed. That really needs to change because if the patient could just have that initial time needed to get all of the necessary information. Listen to all the symptoms no matter how insignificant the doctor thinks it might be because it could be the actual missing piece. Good luck to you and do be pushy and armed with your information that you brilliantly gained through being proactive. Doctors hate that patients use the internet but if you use it right you will get the right answers and be able to do the treatment that you feel is best from an educated perspective.
So true and well said
Melissa – My brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and was told by psychiatrists that there was no cure. He suffered for years in Oklahoma mental hospitals in a state of delirium until one day he collapsed on the floor, and had to be taken to a medical hospital. They did blood work and found he had a high ammonia, but were unable to determine the cause. They gave him a drug to lower his ammonia which brought him back to consciousness, and sent him back to the mental hospital where he returned to the same mental state of delirium as always. Recently I decided to start having blood work done on my brother at walk in labs to see if I could find a cure for his so called schizophrenia. The first thing I found was a low B12 and a high methylmalonic acid level. This acid is caused by a low B12 at the tissue level. Something else I discovered through research, is that when methylmalonic acid gets high, it blocks enzymes in the urea cycle that convert ammonia to urea for evacuation out of the body through urine. When this happens, ammonia levels elevate in the blood and can cause a whole host of problems, including the psychiatric problems he was having. Now I know that he was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia and had a low B12 that caused the methylmalonic acid to rise, which caused ammonia to rise, and the ammonia is a neurotoxin. I would bet your family has a B12 absorption problem and a low B12 is causing your high ammonia. Have a methylmalonic acid test done, because it is the most accurate test for a B12 deficiency.